Death and Life

Death and Life

The week after the funeral Brian was very quiet.  Justin wasn't sure what he could do about it, but he didn't like the remoteness.  After the funeral they had gone back to the loft and Brian had fucked him senseless.  They had spent the rest of the day in bed, getting up only long enough to have take-out.  Justin had hoped that Brian was fucking out any remaining worries and misgivings he had about how he had treated Jack.  He had complimented Brian on his speech at the funeral and so had many other people.  Yet Brian seemed restless and unsettled.


Justin decided that they were going to have to talk about it.  He didn't like the way Brian was closed off from him.  There was something else that was at work and he had to find out what it was.


He was making a special dinner for them when Brian arrived home from work.  His plan was to ply Brian with food and wine, soften him up and then get him to talk about whatever was bothering him.


They ate mostly in silence.  Brian said he liked the food, but he had much more wine than chicken.  Justin cleared the dishes and then asked Brian to bring his wine over to the couch.


"You need to talk to me," he stated.


"About what?" Brian asked.


"Whatever's eating at you."


"What makes you think something's eating at me?"


"Oh, little things, like how quiet you've been, how you answer me in monosyllables, how many times you fuck me every night."


"How many times I fuck you?"


"Quite often the number is proportional to how worried or depressed you are."


"You're kidding?"


"No, I'm not."


Brian shook his head.  What a way to let his true emotions be revealed!  "So you think your sore ass means that something is wrong?"


Justin nodded.  "I'm sure of it, especially since this has been going on ever since the funeral."

Brian stared at him.  Most of the time he was glad that Justin was in tune with his moods and the vagaries of his emotions, but sometimes he didn't want to discuss things and this was one of them.  "I don't want to talk about it," he stated firmly.


"So there is an 'it'."


"Yes," Brian sighed, "but I don't want to do this."

"Why not?  We agreed to be honest with each other.  I know something's wrong.  Maybe I can help."


"You can't help.  No one can help!"




"Fuck!  I always thought Deb was the bulldog, but she has nothing on you!"


"So tell me, and save us both this aggravation."


"Do you know how old Jack was?"


"Jack, the guy who died?  No."


"Thirty.  He was younger than me."




"So why him and not me?  He was a family man, went to church, lived a clean life.  I screw around, do drugs and alcohol.  Why not me?"

"I can't answer that, Brian.  No one can.  It's just something that happens."

"But it's not fair.  That poor little girl!" 

"Since when do you believe in the fairness of the world?"

"I don't."

"Then why are you worrying about why Jack died and not you?"

"I just am.  It's not right that he's dead."

"No, it's not right, but it is beyond even your control.  Worrying about it isn't going to help Mary and Emily, and it's going to make you sick."


"I can't help it."


"You can, but you have to want to."


"You are so smart sometimes…," Brian said.


Justin thought for a split second that he had gotten through to his lover and somehow made him realize the folly of dwelling on Jack's death.


"But this isn't one of them!  You don't know shit about this!  You're just a fucking babe in arms.  Wait till your contemporaries start to die and see how you feel!"


"Brian…?" Justin began, but he didn't know what else to say.  It had been quite a while since Brian had attacked him like that.


"I told you that I didn't want to talk about this, but you couldn't let it rest.  I hope you're happy now!  We can both be miserable."


Brian grabbed his keys and slammed out of the loft.  He heard Justin call his name, but he ignored it.  He needed to be alone, to think.


Justin watched Brian storm out and shook his head in disbelief.  He thought they had gotten beyond that behavior, but apparently not.  He debated running after Brian, but he knew that it would probably make matters worse when Brian was in this frame of mind.

He would be itching for a fight, and that was the last thing Justin wanted right now.




Brian went down to the Jeep.  He peeled away from the loft wanting to put some distance between himself and Justin.  Sometimes Justin just didn't get it.  He still believed that the world could be fixed.  There were some things that could not be fixed.  All that shit about talking.  He'd had it up to here with talking.


He drove for awhile, not paying attention to where he was or where he was going.  Suddenly he stopped at a red light and looked around.  He realized that he was very near the house where Mary and Jack lived … had lived.  He wondered if that was an omen telling him what to do.  He knew he had not consciously chosen this destination, but maybe something was telling him he needed to go there.


He rounded the corner that would take him into the subdivision where the house was.  He turned onto their street wondering what the fuck he was doing there.  As he approached the house, he saw a few lights on and a for sale sign on the front lawn.  He stopped the Jeep in front of the house.


"Now what?" he asked himself. 


He sat staring at the house for a few minutes, unsure if he should get out or just drive away.


Suddenly the front door opened, and Mary called, "Brian!"


He looked up at her and she motioned for him to come in.  Fate had decided for him.  He got slowly out of the car and walked up to her.  She waited at the front door for him to get there.


"Brian," she said with a smile, "I'm so glad to see you again."

"Thanks," he replied.


"Can you come in for a few minutes?"


"I…I guess so."



She got them seated on the sofa and offered Brian some coffee.  She said she had just made a pot for herself.  He accepted, buying some time to figure out what he wanted to say to her.


She returned with two mugs of coffee and he loaded his with sugar.  He saw her grinning at him.  "Did I do something wrong?" he asked, not understanding the look.


"Not at all!  My grandmother used to say that people who took a lot of sugar in their tea or coffee were replenishing all the sweetness they gave to the world."


Brian snorted.  "She obviously didn't know anyone like me."


"Why do you say that?"


"I'm probably the least sweet person you will ever meet."

"That is not true.  You were very sweet to me that horrible day.  I couldn't have got through it without you, and you said some sweet things about Jack at the funeral."

Brian looked at her, not responding.  He was thinking about how many times Justin told him he was sweet, maybe not as many times as there should be, but Brian always told him to keep that a secret so as not to ruin his reputation as a heartless asshole.  Here was a complete stranger telling him the same thing.  He shook his head.


"You don't believe me?" she asked.


"That's certainly not my reputation."

"Sometimes reputations can be deceiving.  Jack used to tell me how you brooked no nonsense or stupidity at work.  He said you could cut the legs out from under some idiot in a second.  He said sometimes you were rather … cruel, but he respected your intelligence and understood why you were annoyed."


"He did?"


"Yes, and he told me that you never spoke to him that way."


"He was always on top of things, never shirked his responsibilities."


"He thought a lot of you.  He often said he hoped he could be as good an exec as you were," Mary said with a little catch in her voice.  They both knew that Jack would never get to make that advancement in his career.


Brian decided they needed to turn the conversation away from him.  That wasn't why he was there.  Trouble was he didn't know why he had come there.  "How are you doing?" he asked softly.


"About as well as can be expected," she replied with a sigh.


"I saw the for sale sign on the lawn."


"I decided to sell the house and go back to Cleveland.  My sister and her husband are there.  We lived there before Jack got the job with Vangard.  I have friends there, and I'll start looking for a job.  My sister has two kids, one Emily's age and one a little older.  She'll be able to baby-sit Emily when I go back to work."


"Are you all right financially?  I hope you don't mind me asking."


"Jack had a healthy life insurance policy through Vangard.  We lived pretty frugally, so I don't have much debt to take care of, just the house."

"That's good.  How's Emily doing?"


"She doesn't really understand what's happened.  Every once in a while she asks me where Daddy is and it just about breaks my heart.  I've told her he's in Heaven, but that doesn't mean much to her.  She knows he should be here with us and he isn't."

"It must be hard."


"It is, but they always say it gets easier with time.  That's what I'm hoping."


"Did you know that I'm a bit older than Jack was?" Brian asked suddenly.


"No, I didn't, but I thought you were about the same age."


"I have a son about the same age as Emily."  He didn't know why he was telling her this, but he felt he needed to.


"I thought you were gay?"


"I am."  He shook his head.  "It always confuses people.  I was a sperm donor for a friend of mine.  Gus, my son, lives with his mother and her partner."

"Oh?" Mary said.  "You're lucky to have a son.  Emily was the apple of her Daddy's eye."


"I think that's why I came here tonight … because of Gus."




"I keep thinking about how Emily has no father and wondering why it was Jack.  It could just as easily have been me.  Then Gus would have grown up never really knowing his father."


"I'll make sure Emily knows about her father.  I don't know what the future holds, but maybe I'll remarry and find a fine man like you to be Emily's stepfather.  I'll never let her forget Jack though."


Brian listened to all this.  She thought he was a fine man, that someone like him would make a good father to Emily.  He wished that were true.


"Brian," she said softly, "it wasn't your fault.  No one could predict or prevent what happened.  The best thing we can do is go on and live the best lives we can."


"I guess that's true."  He stared at her for a moment.  "I better get going," he said standing.


She walked him to the door.  He turned back to say goodbye, and she hugged him tightly for several seconds.  "Thanks for everything, Brian.  Don't worry about us and don't feel guilty that it was Jack instead of you.  Have a good, happy life," she whispered in his ear.


"You too," he replied and walked out the door.




Justin threw down his sketchbook.  He had drawn for a long time and his hand was starting to cramp.  He had watched TV, listened to CD's and then drawn two useless sketches since Brian had left the loft.  The man had been gone for over three hours. 


Justin sighed.  Sometimes this relationship shit was for the birds.  He had tried his best to help Brian, to communicate, and all that had got him was yelled at and left sitting in Brian's dust. 


"Fuck this!" he muttered.


He went up to the bedroom and debated getting dressed and going to Babylon.  He thought he would probably find Brian there, in the backroom, of course.


Why did life have to be such shit?  Why couldn't they have a month of happiness instead of a day here and there?  It was so tiring all the time to try to figure out what was going on with Brian and why he did the self-destructive things he did.  And then Brian would refuse to talk about it like tonight.  All of his best intentions about not letting Brian get away with non-communication, about having an open and honest relationship, went down the toilet when Brian got like this.  It was out of his hands.  Brian had all the control, like he always did, like he demanded.


Justin threw himself down on the bed.  What more could he do?  He needed to talk to someone with a sympathetic ear.  He reached for the phone and hit a number.


"Please be there," he whispered.



"Hi, Daph," he said cheerfully.


"What did he do this time?" she asked.


"What makes you think he did anything?"


"When you call me after eleven, that means you're not fucking, so something is wrong, which means Brian has done something.  Am I right?"


"Yes," he said reluctantly.


"So spill!"


"Brian stormed out of here hours ago.  We had a fight and he hasn't come back."

"What was the fight about?"


"That's the weird part.  I'm not exactly sure."

"What do you mean?"

"It's kind of a long story.  Do you have time?"

"What else does a gorgeous young thing like me have to do but sit around and listen to your relationship problems when I have no relationship of my own?"


"What happened to Kurt?"

"Gone.  We weren't right for each other."


"I'm sorry."


"I'm not.  He was a jerk, the more I got to know him."

"That's too bad."


"Enough about Kurt.  Tell me what happened with Brian."


Justin proceeded to tell her about Jack and the funeral and how withdrawn Brian had become.  He told her about trying to get Brian to talk and how he had yelled at him before he left.  When he was done, he expected Daphne to shower him with sympathy.


"So what did you expect?" Daphne asked.


"What do you mean?"


"A funeral can be a major life issue.  You said the man died right in front of Brian and he was about the same age.  That's like seeing yourself die, facing your own mortality.  Most people face it when their last parent dies, but Brian is doing that now."


"Is this your best Psych 101 opinion?" Justin asked sarcastically.


"I'll have you know that I'm doing second and third year psych courses now!" she declared.  "I don't appreciate you belittling my opinions.  I thought you wanted my help."

"I do.  I'm sorry," he conceded.


"Well, cut him some slack.  He's going through something really serious."


"Okay, okay!" Justin gave in.  "But he won't talk to me.  Just like he always does, he walked out."


"Justin, I don't want to be mean, but sometimes you don't know when to give it a rest.  You want to fix everything, even when it can't be fixed.  You may need to back off and let Brian work through this himself."


"Christ, that's what Brian told me.  You think this is my fault?"  Justin couldn't believe his ears.


"I didn't say that.  It's not anyone's fault.  I'm just telling you that Brian has to work through it and there's nothing you can say that will make it better.  He has to come to terms with it himself."

"So what should I do?"

"Be there and let him know that you love him.  Tell him that you're ready to listen when he wants to talk, but don't bug him about it."


"But he's so quiet and … sad.  I hate it."


"Those may be his feelings, so let him feel them.  It's about him, not you."

"Shit, Daph!  I've been going about this all wrong."


"No, you haven't.  You were right to try to get him to talk, but if he doesn't want to, then let him be."


"How long do you think this will go on?"


"I have no idea.  It'll go on until he's ready to come out of his funk."

"I don't know if I can stand it."

"You wanted this relationship.  Are you prepared to stand by him through this?"

"I'll try."


"Thanks, I think."


"What do you mean, you think?  I'm giving you excellent advice here."

"It isn't what I expected or wanted to hear."


"Tough!  It's what you need to hear."


"I know you're right.  I hope I can do it, that's all."

"You can do it.  Be patient."

"Thanks, Daph."

Justin hung up.  She had given him a lot to think about.  He knew she was right about most of what she had told him.  He always thought he was the mature one in this relationship, but sometimes that sure wasn't much fun.




Brian had driven around for a long time after speaking with Mary.  He couldn't quite decide what to do.  He had thought about going to Woody's or Babylon.  Getting his dick sucked in the backroom wouldn't be a bad thing.  The only trouble was he didn't really want to do that.  Mary had given him a taste of hope, a feeling that he wasn't a useless dickhead, a tiny sliver of belief in himself and his life.  Maybe he was supposed to live.  Maybe he wasn't such a bad worthless person.  Justin loved him.


"Shit!"  He had treated Justin like crap, and all the boy had done was try to talk to him.  What was the matter with him?  Why did he feel like shit all the time?


He should go home and try to set things straight, but he couldn't.  So many things the last few days seemed to be beyond his ability. 


He noticed a bar as he drove down the street.  A drink was what he needed.  He slid the Jeep into the first parking spot he saw and walked back to the bar.  It was kind of a seedy, rundown place, but liquor was liquor, and that was what he wanted.


He ordered a double Beam and downed it in a couple of gulps.  The bartender refilled his glass immediately.  This would be easy.  He took it a little slower with this glass.  The bartender seemed to be studying him.


"You okay, buddy?" he asked Brian.


"Peachy!" Brian replied.


The bartender chuckled.  "Tossing them back pretty fast, aren't you?"


"What do you care, as long as I pay for them?"

"No skin off my nose!  I just wondered if you wanted to talk."

"That's why I'm here, to avoid talking."

"Oh, the little woman busting your balls about something?"


"Something like that."


"They're all the same.  Want to tell you what to do and how to do it."


Brian looked at him.  He really didn't want to be having this conversation.  This idiot thought he was straight and wanted to commiserate about nagging wives.  How did he get himself into these things?


"I should go home," Brian said standing up and tossing some money on the bar.


"Good luck," the barkeep called after him.


He walked back to the Jeep and sat behind the wheel.  He didn't know what to do or where to go.  He wanted to go home and have Justin hold him and tell him he loved him, but he had been so miserable to him.  He thought they would probably just fight as soon as he opened his mouth.  Justin would be pissed that he had walked out on him again.


Why did he keep making the same mistakes over and over again?  When would he ever get it right?


He leaned his forehead on the steering wheel.  After a few minutes he saw a tear drop onto his jeans and he realized that he was crying.  What was wrong with him?  He needed to go home.  He needed Justin.  He'd try not to fight.  He wanted to hold his boy and kiss him and make love with him and celebrate that they were both alive.


He turned the key in the ignition and pointed the Jeep toward the loft.




Justin had laid on the bed for a long time after he talked to Daphne.  He thought about what she had said to him.  He saw the truth in her words.  Brian had made real strides in talking to him about almost everything.  He knew how hard that was for him.  He should be grateful that the man had made the effort, but he was never satisfied.  He had pushed too hard once again.


He sighed and started removing his clothes.  He crawled under the sheets and lay staring up at the ceiling.  He heard the steel door slide shut and knew Brian had come back.  He didn't hear any further noise, so that meant Brian didn't have a trick with him and he wasn't drunk or wasted enough to be bumping into things.


The refrigerator door opened and shut.  He saw the light through the frosted glass panels.  He waited.


Brian came up the steps drinking his water.  "Are you asleep?" he asked, clearly able to see that Justin was looking at him.




Brian began removing his clothes and Justin watched him in silence.  Brian slipped under the covers and lay looking at the ceiling, just like Justin had been doing.  Justin wanted to ask him where he had been, but he bit his tongue and waited.  He had vowed to himself that he wouldn't push.  He didn't want a fight.


"Aren't you going to start with the questions?" Brian asked with a sigh.


Justin shook his head.


"How come?" Brian asked.


"I think I've bugged you enough for one night."

"You do?"


Justin nodded again.


"I'm sorry I walked out on you again."


Justin waited.  He didn't say anything.


"I try not to do that, but I needed to be alone.  I couldn't talk about it any more."


"I understand," Justin conceded.


"You do?"


Justin nodded.


"How come you're not reaming me out?"

"I don't want to.  I love you."

Justin found himself crushed to Brian's chest.  The man's strong arms had wrapped around him and Brian's face was buried in his neck.  He could feel silent sobs escaping Brian's body, so he just held on and waited for them to pass.


After a few minutes he felt Brian quiet and lessen his grip on him.  Brian ran his hand along Justin's back and then his mouth covered his lover's, kissing him gently and longingly.


Justin felt Brian wipe his eyes.  The man sighed, but still held him close.


"Are you all right?" Justin had to ask.


"I think so.  I'm better than when I left here."

"Where did you go?"


"I drove around for a long time.  Then I found myself at Mary's."

"Mary's?"  Justin was surprised.  He was sure Brian would have resorted to his usual tactics, drinking and fucking.


"I needed to see how they were doing."

"Are they all right?"


"As all right as anyone can be in the circumstances."

"That's good."

"She told me that the best thing any of us could do for Jack was to have a good, happy life."


"She did?"


Brian nodded.  "She's a lovely lady.  She said she'd never let Emily forget her daddy."

"That's good."

"Would you forget me if I died?"


"Oh Brian, of course not.  And I wouldn't let Gus forget you either.  None of us would."




Justin ran his hand over Brian's back, trying to comfort him and let him know that everything would be all right.


"How come you're being so nice to me?  I thought you'd yell at me for leaving.  I deserve it."


"No you don't.  I talked to Daph and she set me straight."

"Daphne?  What did she say?"

"She's taking all these psych courses, so she knows everything!"  He made a face and got a little chuckle out of Brian.  "She said I should cut you some slack, that you had some things to work through.  She said you were facing your own mortality."


"Is that right?"  Brian looked thoughtful.  "I think maybe that's true," he said finally, "only I couldn't have told you that was what I was doing.  I was just depressed and sad."

"She said you'd have to work it through yourself and I should back off."


"I knew I liked that girl!"


"Are you feeling better?"


"Some.  I discovered tonight, after I talked to Mary, that the only place I wanted to be was right here, holding you in my arms."


"I'll always be here for you.  Never doubt that."

"I'm sorry I make it hard for you sometimes."


"That's the way it goes.  I've made life difficult for you lots of times."


"You think?" Brian asked tongue in cheek.


Justin swatted him playfully.  That Brian was joking even a little bit was a promising sign.  "Are you going to fuck me?" Justin asked.


"Want me to?"




Brian squeezed Justin tighter to his body and started kissing him everywhere.  Justin returned the favor until they were both gasping and hard and ready.


"I love you," Justin whispered.


"I love you too."


"Show me."


Brian grabbed a condom and the lube.  He tenderly opened Justin up and prepared him for his cock.  Justin thought about telling him to hurry up, but he sensed that Brian needed to do this slowly, cherishing each moment.  Once Brian was inside he rode him hard and their orgasms ripped through them at the end.


Brian pulled the sheet back over them and cradled Justin against his body.  He sighed in satisfaction.  They were so good together.


"Tired?" Justin asked.


"Umm," Brian replied sleepily. 


"I guess my quota of sex is going to be way down now that you're feeling better," Justin teased.


"I wouldn't be too sure," Brian replied, giving Justin's cock a tug and feeling it swell under his fingers.


"Oh?" Justin asked.


"I plan to live life to the fullest and enjoy every minute, starting now!"


Justin knew his ass was going to be plenty busy after all.

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